Inquest begins into Ontario's 911 system

While testifying at a coroner's inquest, the sole survivor of a 2013 boating fatality on Lake Wanapitei shared his frustrations about calling 911 following the accident.

Joint inquest to look into 2013 boating tragedy in Sudbury, 2014 death in Casselman

Rob Dorzek listens to 911 calls he made in 2013. (Supplied/

While testifying at a coroner's inquest in Sudbury, the sole survivor of a 2013 boating fatality shared the frustrations he experienced when he called 911 following the accident.

On Monday, a joint coroner's inquest started looking into concerns with the province's 911 communication service.

The inquiry is looking at two fatal events — a 2013 boating tragedy in Sudbury and a 2014 death in Casselman. The counsel to the corner says the inquest is not about assigning blame, rather it's to address communication concerns, and to prevent similar tragedies.

Sudbury case

In June 2013, a boat struck a small island on Lake Wanapitei in Greater Sudbury. Matthew Humeniuk, 33, and Michael Kritz, 34, died as a result. Stephanie Bertrand, 25, died one week later, of her injuries.

The only survivor is Rob Dorzek, who spoke at the inquiry on Monday. He had been in a relationship with Bertrand at the time of the incident.

Dorzek told the inquiry about the events leading up to the crash. He said Humeniuk was operating the boat that evening.

At the time of the crash, Dorzek said there was no course deviation, rather "just a bang," when the boat hit the island.

He says he lost consciousness for a short time and when he woke up he was in a lot of pain.

911 calls

Dorzek made a total of five 911 calls for help. Those calls were played at the inquiry on Monday.

In his first call, made at 12:30 a.m. the dispatcher was working to figure out the location of the boat crash. Dorzek says he offered to take a screen shot through Google Maps and text it, adding he wasn't familiar with the lake. That call got disconnected.

A second call was made to 911 about 15 minutes later, and was reconnected to the first dispatcher Dorzek had been talking to. That call got disconnected as well.

Dorzek's third call to 911 was made at 12:55 a.m. That also got cut off.

A few minutes later, he made his fourth call to 911. During that call, a discussion took place between Dorzek and the dispatcher about him lighting a signal fire so emergency crews could find the island they were on.

Dorzek says he found a seat cushion from the boat, managed to get it to a rock and lit it with a lighter to start what he thought was a signal fire.

Waiting for help

The inquest heard that 40 minutes after Dorzek placed his first 911 call, emergency crews still had not yet arrived on scene. His fourth call to 911 at that time got disconnected again, and he told the inquest he was skeptical help was on the way.

On his fifth and final call to 911 it is a different call taker who communicates with Dorzek.

At that point, the fire had grown as Dorzek says it had "crested the hill and come down the side of the boat."

"It was no longer a signal fire," he told the inquiry.

He said he was starting to worry about Bertrand's safety and told dispatchers he was going to pull her fully out of the boat. The dispatcher told him not to do that, and that crews had arrived at the lake.

Dorzek did pull her out to move her away from the fire. The 911 dispatcher told him that crews were coming as fast as they could.

"I don't believe you," he told the 911 dispatcher. At this point, it had been almost an hour since Dorzek made his first call for help.

When asked about by the counsel to the coroner what he is feeling during this point in the 911 call, Dorsek says he is "completely drained."

When he asked why he told the call taker that they were lying and that he didn't believe them when they said help was on the way, Dorzek told the inquest "because I heard it a million times before."

"It shouldn't take this long," Dorzek is heard telling the dispatcher in his final 911 call.

Emergency responders didn't get to the crash site until 1:38 a.m. Dorzek's first call to 911 was made at 12:30 a.m.

Dorzek is expected to continue his testimony on Tuesday. The two dispatchers/call takers who communicated with him the night of the accident are also expected to testify.

The inquest will spend the first part of the proceedings in Sudbury, before moving to Ottawa next week to focus on the Casselman death.

With files from Angela Gemmill